The savage assault last week on Quinn Industrial Holdings executive, Mr. Kevin Lunney, has both shocked and angered people across the country. The savagery and inhumanity involved reveal the continued existence of a minority criminal underground across the Border region that acts with impunity beyond the law, undermining the rights of the vast majority of decent and law-abiding citizens in the region. This assault on Mr. Lunney is the latest in a long series of attacks, including arson, intimidation, murder threats, destruction of property and endangerment to workers since 2011. It is worth reminding the House that in this region in recent years, two gardaí, Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe and Garda Tony Golden, were murdered in 2013 and 2015, respectively. These criminals have no respect for State authorities or the law and they operate in a twilight zone of their own with savagery and murderous intent.
When I heard of this savage assault on Mr. Kevin Lunney and the circumstances surrounding it, my mind went back to the savage murder of Mr. Paul Quinn in October 2007. He was a young lad who was lured into a barn. I subsequently met his parents, Stephen and Breege, and their campaign for justice has continued. They were in no doubt at that time who was responsible for the murder of their son. They blamed the IRA at that stage. I am not connecting that to who is responsible for the attack on Mr. Kevin Lunney but the nature and similarity of the attack is the point of comparison. In Mr. Quinn's case, a team of approximately 15 people was involved in the murder, and he too was lured to an isolated barn. Six or seven individuals clad in overalls and surgical gloves beat him to death; they were trying to avoid leaving forensic clues. His mother said to me: "They broke every bone in my son's body." If we fast-forward some years later, groups of people are again trying to avoid leaving forensic clues, getting a person into an isolated location and beating him almost to death.
There is a terrible legacy in the Border region and we must face up to it. These acts did not stop after the Good Friday Agreement and certain paramilitary elements have carried on regardless in enforcing for and protecting a criminal financial empire. Operation Loft, which was undertaken by the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, in 2015 revealed a paramilitary financial empire of up to €70 million per annum with approximately €500 million in assets. The 2018 cross-Border threat assessment prepared jointly by the Garda and Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, estimated that 43% of organised crime gangs in Northern Ireland have a cross-Border dimension.
The time has come for both the British and Irish Governments, as well as the Northern Ireland authorities when they return, to establish a statutory cross-Border multidisciplinary agency with a specific budget and personnel to once and for all root this evil out of the Border region.